The Arisaka Type 38 (Rifle, Meiji 38th Year) was the standard rifle issued to the Imperial Japanese infantry by the time of the fighting of World War 1 (1914-1918). The rifle had an inherently high accuracy rate and proved very reliable in even the most adverse conditions found on the modern battlefield - particularly in the jungle fighting of Southeast Asia and across the Pacific Theater. Wartime records would go on to show that some 3,400,000 of the guns were ultimately produced and the series saw active service with elements outside of the Empire - including those belonging to Britain, Thailand, the Russian Empire / Soviet Union, and China. The Type 38 was adopted into Imperial Japanese Service in 1905.
The Type 38 rifle was a "long gun" and optimized to use the Type 30 infantry bayonet set at the barrel. In all, the rifle measured some 4 feet, 2 inches long and was one of the longest such weapons still in service by the time of the Second World War (1939-1945). The additional 20-inches gained by the installed bayonet gave the Japanese soldier a definitive reach against a target when close-quarters fighting ensued. However, the average Japanese infantryman still only stood at about 5 feet, 3 inches and thus there would be inherent difficulties when handling such a long weapon. The small stature of the average Japanese soldier also required a comparatively small caliber cartridge of less powder charge to help contain recoil when the weapon was fired from the shoulder.
These design problems lead to different versions of the same rifle being produced that included the shortened Type 38 Carbine issued to "non-combat" troops. In this form, the overall length was reduced to 966mm. Similarly an airborne / paratrooper model was produced but with a folding buttstock to give an even more compact form. The Rifle Type 97 utilized a telescopic sight and was issued to specialist sniper units for precision ranged fire. The Rifle Type 99 used a 7.7mm cartridge and had a folding monopod for stability when firing at troops (some are thought to even have been used to engage low-flying aircraft).
As all service rifles and bayonets were the property of the Japanese Emperor, each were stamped with the sixteen petal chrysanthemum on the receiver (for the rifle) and on the blade (for the bayonet). This gave the common soldier a cultural connection to the Samurai warrior class that was still of great pride to the Imperial Japanese Army of the day.
The Type 38 was a manually-operated bolt-action rifle, requiring the operator to actuate a bolt handle found on the receiver. The ensuing action ejected a spent cartridge from the chamber and introduced a fresh cartridge in turn. The standard cartridge for the Type 38 became the 6.5mm / 50mm Arisaka round fired from a basic 5-round box magazine. Rate-of-fire was about 30 rounds-a-minute in the hands of a trained shooter.
Empty weight of the weapon became a manageable 8.7lb. Its overall appearance was highly conventional featuring a long running wooden frame banded in two points. The major internal workings were concentrated at the rear of the receiver with the long barrel taking up most of the gun's running length towards the front. Sights were fitted at the front (post) - just aft of the muzzle - and atop of the receiver (flip-up leaf) - ahead of the action. The buttstock was solid wood and contoured to an ergonomic shape to fit tightly in the primary hand of the user. The trigger was suspended under the action and protected by an oblong trigger guard in the usual way.
Despite its 1905-1906 adoption, the rifle series continued to pop up in conflicts even past the fighting of World War 2. They were encountered in the Chinese Civil War (1927-1936; 1946-1950), the Indonesian National Revolution (1945-1949), the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), the Korean War (1950-1953), the First Indochina War (1946-1954), and the Vietnam War (1955-1975) that followed.
Type 38 - Base Series Designation
Type 38 Carbine - Shorter Version of the Type 38 Rifle; 966mm length; primarily issued to non-combat troops.
Type 38 Airborne - Compact Version for use by airborne elements; folding stock.
Type 38 Short - Shortened Type 38 rifles with work handled by Nagoya Arsenal during the 1930s-1940s; 25" long barrel assemblies.
Type 44 Carbine - Shortened version; under-barrel folding bayonet; model of 1911.
Rifle Type 97 - Sniper Version with telescopic sight of 2.5x (offset mounting).
Rifle Type 99 - Heavy-Caliber Version for anti-infantry and anti-aircraft use; 7.7mm cartridge; folding mono-pod.
Six/Five Infantry Rifle - Chinese copy of the 1920s/1930s; production reaching 108,000 units.
Type 918 Rifle - Type 38 copy by South Manchurian Army Arsenal.
North China Type 19 - Carbine form copy of Type 38 service rifle; mixed quality.
Siamese Type66 - Full-length rifle for Siam (Thailand); 50,000 units produced.
Thai Type 83 - Service rifle for Thailand from Japanese stocks; chambered in 6.5x50SR.
Thai Type 91 Police - Carbine model for Thailand; post-World War 2 variant.
Mexican Model 1913 - Model of 1913 for Mexico chambered in 7x57mm Mauser.
KL .303 - Estonian Army conversion model in British .303 chambering; model of 1929; production totaling 24,000 units.
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